Pledge to Care About Climate with Your Toiletry Product Purchases

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An Open Letter to Anyone Who Buys Toiletry Products

Dear consumer,

Have you ever looked at your toiletries and thought about how much carbon you produced just from buying the products? No? Don’t worry, neither had I. Until now. 

Before we continue, I have to admit, I’m no environmental saint. I don’t live a zero waste lifestyle, I travel any chance I can get, and I walk into shops, like IKEA, Sephora, and Flying Tiger, with the intention of buying one thing but ending up with a bag full of items. However, as a university student studying the environment, I have to say it’s quite disheartening to watch as we ruin the planet that sustains us. That’s why it’s important that we, the consumers, put pressure on the producers to provide us with products that we won’t feel bad about buying.

But how can you, as an individual, make a change in the way a large company operates? Well, you’ve probably been reading or seeing headlines about climate change in the news for a while now and at this point, you can most likely agree that most people fall under the category of “We know it exists, but we don’t really know what to do about it.” Right? This is where this letter comes in handy. I believe it’s our responsibility to show companies we care about the environment with our wallets. The United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that they want to achieve by 2030. Two of them concern the way we purchase our products – goals 12 and 13, responsible, and sustainable, consumption and production, and taking urgent action to combat climate change, respectively. In order to help achieve these goals, we can support environmentally friendly brands by purchasing more of their items. And, in addition to this, refuse to purchase items from brands that produce too many carbon emissions for our own good, similar to how many people already refuse to purchase from certain brands due to animal testing.

So, why should you listen to me? Well, I spent a couple of weeks compiling information on toiletry companies, manufacturers, and transport routes, so you wouldn’t have to, and found some shocking results. When I showed the data, and insanely large spreadsheet, to my classmates, they asked me how I felt about it. My response was that I felt awful, and not only because of the endless hours of research, missed social outings, and lack of sleep that came from it.

I roughly calculated the amount of carbon dioxide emissions it would take for all of my toiletry products to get to me, including my bathroom necessities and makeup. Can you guess how many tonnes of CO2 were emitted in the process?

Let me give you a little guideline before you make any guesses:
- The average amount of CO2 a EU citizen produces each year is 9.1 tonnes, which is approximately equivalent to the weight of 2 and a half Hippopotamuses.
- The average amount of CO2 a Canadian citizen produces each year is 20.1 tonnes, which is approximately equivalent to the weight of 3 Tyrannosaurus Rexes.
- And since I’m an exchange student at the moment, my flight from YVR (Vancouver International Airport) to ARN (Stockholm-Arlanda Airport) via FRA (Frankfurt Airport) was 1.8 tonnes of CO2, which is approximately equivalent to the weight of 2 and a half Cows.

Now that you have this information, how much carbon do you think I produced from simply buying these products?

23.387 tonnes of CO2! That’s a little more than the weight of 3 large elephants. In carbon dioxide! Is that not insane? The correct answer you’re looking for is yes, that is insane. (If you’re curious as to how I came up with this number, you can view the spreadsheet I’ve created here. Disclaimer: this is a very rough estimate.)

The maximum amount of CO2 a person should be producing to stop human-driven climate change per year is 2 tonnes. That’s about 10% of how much Canadians actually produce per year, 22% of how much a EU citizen actually produces per year, and about 8.5% of how much it took for my toiletry products to get to my house. In addition to the amount of carbon produced solely by the transport of goods, we also have excess packaging and outsourcing of product ingredients from across the world that increase our carbon footprint even more.

Now, think about the impact that approximately 7.6 billion people are leaving on the Earth with that much carbon dioxide. Our planet can only handle so much. Have you heard of the planetary boundaries? They’re a group of the planet’s system processes that have a set of boundaries. Crossing these boundaries is unsustainable for both the Earth and human life. As of today, we’ve already crossed 3 of the 9, and are on our way to crossing the climate change boundary. We need to stop our overusing ways before we are past the point of no return. If we don’t face the problems that we are creating, then we’ll lose everything we care about. Depressing, I know. But our futures depend on us, so we need to start showing people that we care.

I’m not forcing you to turn into a zero waste, zero carbon producing, environmental saint tomorrow, but I am asking you to consider taking a little extra time when thinking about what you purchase. Here are some small changes that I will be making, and which I urge you to make as well:
- Local: Look at the label and gravitate towards locally made products, rather than products that are made in China, or Taiwan (unless you’re from those countries, of course, then please, buy those local products!)
Eco-Label: Purchase products with a certified eco-label on them. An eco-label identifies products that are environmentally preferable. Therefore, when you purchase items with an eco-label, you are helping with the 12th SDG - which is ensuring sustainable and responsible consumption and production.
Environmentally Friendly: As mentioned above, purchase products from environmentally friendly brands to show your support, and refuse to buy products from brands that outsource their products from all around the world and use excess packaging.
No Packaging: If possible, say no to packaging. Buy products with recycled packaging or no packaging at all. Bring your own containers and bags, or say no, when someone asks if you want a plastic bag with your purchase.
If you take away anything from this, I hope you’ll “L.E.E.N.” towards purchasing green the next time you buy toiletry products.

By signing this, my hope is that you will pledge to care about climate change and acknowledge the responsibility you have, not only for you, but also for everyone and everything you care about.

 I care. How about you?

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